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Out of the Bottle


I loved the line and curve

of each sculpted bottle,

memorised names.


Hartnell’s heart-shaped In Love,

ribboned around the neck.

Yardley’s Bond Street,


Coty’s L’Aimant.

Bourjois’ Evening In Paris

opaque and dusky-blue.


Mum tutted me from counters

in posh stores, her own pink

glassware empty on its tray.


A wedding present, she said,

not to be played with though

I could dust if I was careful.


I flicked, stroked, made sure

I was alone, puffed air over

my throat and preened.


Mum’s older sister used

Devon Violets, sprinkled

it on her hankies, let me sniff.


Old fashioned – shrieked my teenage

cousin. She took me to her bedroom.

Californian Poppy?  She winked,


held out a stopper.  I nodded

and she doused my pulse-points.

It smelled different on my skin.


Walking home, I felt grown-up

and slightly nauseous, conjured

stiletto heels and crimson lipstick,


was concocting a black silk dress

when Dad asked suddenly, sharply

What’s that you think you’re wearing?



© Sheila Jacob, first published in Through My Father’s Eyes, 2019

Picture 10503405, advertisement, 20th century, image copyright Mary Evans / Retrograph Collection



Sheila Jacob was born and raised in Birmingham, and lives with her husband in North Wales. She resumed writing poetry in 2013 after a long absence. She’s had poems published in Sarasvati, Reach Poetry, The Dawntreader, The Cannon’s Mouth, Clear Poetry and The Blue Nib, amongst others, and on various webzines including Atrium and The Poetry Village. In March 2019 she self-published a chapbook of poems, Through My Father’s Eyes. The poems form a tribute to her father and his working-class upbringing in Birmingham.